Bipartisan Senate & House Tech Leaders Press Commerce Dept., FTC on Need to Protect Data Flows in Wake of European ‘Safe Harbor’ Ruling

October 14, 2015

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) and Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), the chairman and ranking member of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation and Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.) and Rep. Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-N.J.), the chairman and ranking member of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, along with 52 members of the Senate and House urged Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker and Federal Trade Commission Chairwoman Edith Ramirez to redouble efforts on finalizing a successor agreement to the now stricken “Safe Harbor” agreement to allow critically important trans-Atlantic data flows invalidated earlier this week. The letter signers also urged officials to work with their European counterparts to quickly issue interim guidance while negotiations continue.

The text of the letter follows below:

Secretary Pritzker and Chairwoman Ramirez:

The globally-connected Internet is an important driver of economic development and a key underpinning of the trade relationship between the United States and European Union (EU).  Cross-border data flows between the U.S. and EU are the highest in the world, some fifty percent higher than data flows between the U.S. and Asia, and nearly double the data flows between the U.S. and Latin America.  Disruption of this free flow of information would have unfortunate effects on students, consumers, and businesses, as well as speech and innovation more generally.

Since 2000, the U.S.-EU Safe Harbor Agreement has ensured consumers on both sides of the Atlantic benefit from a free and open Internet.  More than four thousand companies are certified under the Safe Harbor, most of which are small and medium enterprises.  These companies, and the thousands more that partner with them, rely upon the Safe Harbor to operate their businesses efficiently, effectively, and in a manner respecting the rights of individuals.

Trans-Atlantic digital trade is of critical importance to both the U.S. economy and the economy of the EU.  The recent decision of the European Court of Justice (ECJ) to invalidate the Safe Harbor Agreement unfortunately creates significant uncertainty for the customers and partners of businesses that send data between Europe and the United States.

After two years of negotiations, we understand significant progress has been made on a new agreement with the EU that would guarantee continued trans-Atlantic data flows and adequately protect consumer data.  The ECJ decision makes urgent the need to redouble your efforts and conclude a successor to the now-invalidated Safe Harbor Agreement.  The announcement of a revised framework will represent an important step in clarifying misinformation and providing marketplace stability.  Finally, we encourage you to work closely with your European counterparts to issue interim guidance for businesses that have relied upon the Safe Harbor.  It is imperative these businesses are able to continue operating in the absence of the Safe Harbor.

Thank you for your continued leadership on this important issue to the global economy.


Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.), Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), Rep. Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-N.J.), Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), Sen. Gary Peters (D-Mich.) Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Sen. Jerry Moran (R-Kan.), Rep. Pete Olson (R-Texas), Rep. Gus Bilirakis (R-Fla.), Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.), Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), Rep. John Shimkus (R-Ill.), Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.), Rep. Michael Burgess (R-Texas), Rep. Leonard Lance (R-N.J.), Rep. Bob Latta (R-Ohio), Rep. Ed Whitfield (R-Ky.), Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas), Rep. Brett Guthrie (R-Ky.), Rep. Morgan Griffith (R-Va.), Rep. Chris Collins (R-N.Y.), Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.), Rep. Rene Ellmers (R-N.C.), Rep. Susan Brooks (R-Ind.), Rep. Billy Long (R-Mo.), Rep. Bill Johnson (R-Ohio), Rep. Larry Bucshon (R-Ind.), Rep. Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.), Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.), Rep. Bill Flores (R-Texas), Rep. David McKinley (R-W.Va.), Rep. Joseph Pitts (R-Pa.), Rep. Richard Hudson (R-N.C.), Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-Kan.), Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.), Rep. Doris Matsui (D-Calif.), Rep. Ben Ray Lujan (D-N.M.), Rep. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.), Rep. Markwayne Mullin (R-Okla.), Rep. Tony Cardenas (D-Calif.), Rep. Tim Murphy (D-Pa.), Rep. Michael Doyle (D-Pa.), Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.), Rep. Gregg Harper (R-Miss.), Rep. John Yarmuth (D-Ky.), Rep. , Rep. Gene Green (D-Texas), Rep. Peter Welch (D-Vt.), Rep. G.K. Butterfield (D-N.C.).